November 25, 2006

Native journalists make a difference

Jodi Rave:  More American Indian journalists neededThe reading public responded enthusiastically to Rave's stories.

"It was just like a light had turned on for the entire community, because people hadn't seen Indian stories before. They were hearing different perspectives and they liked it. And it hasn't changed. Every day I get e-mails from people saying thank you for writing or I'm a fan of yours--I love to hear that. It makes me realize that it's making a difference and I'm doing what I believe in. I don't care about those other journalists who don't want to write about Indian issues, because I do and I always have," Rave said.

Passionate about the subjects she covers, one of Rave's greatest recent successes was the Montana Legislature's appropriation of $13 million in public education funding for Indian history and culture. The state's 30-year-old constitutional mandate to provide that curriculum to K-12 students had been completely ignored, but Rave's yearlong coverage raised awareness and support for the appropriation.
For more on the subject, see Native Journalism:  To Tell the Truth.

5 comments:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
To the post following this one, writerfella mentions 'countless articles he has written about Natives, Native causes, and Native issues.' BUT --
He never has restricted himself only to those and in fact has written about anything and everything else, as well. Some of his 'successes'? In 1963, he ended almost 50 years of compulsory ROTC at the University of Oklahoma by 'discovering' that OU sits on land granted by the Potawatomis and that 'land grant' universities cannot have such compulsory programs. In 1973, he was one of the most vocal opponents of the Black Fox (named for a Cherokee chief) nuclear plant that was to be built by the Public Service Company of Oklahoma. The issue sailed in and out of courts for years, with the public evenly divided on its merits. Then writerfella and a group of fellow anti-nukes 'discovered' that two of Black Fox's GE nuclear engines were less than 100 digits away from the serial number of the nuclear engine that nearly melted down at Three Mile Island. With publication of the information in 1982, the Black Fox nuclear plant died overnight. Now, with rumblings afoot to try to revive the nuclear plant issue in Oklahoma, writerfella fully is prepared and ready at his keyboard.
In 1992, a completely unexpected 'Native issue' came about to involve writerfella. His adopted brother was on trial for first degree murder here in Caddo County. There were no witnesses, no fingerprints or handprints, no fibers, no hairs, and only DNA from semen samples found at the crime scene connected the young man to the crime. The FBI, who were in the process of trying to market their DNA protocols worldwide, immediately entered the case for the prosecution and the media onslaught began to convince the public that DNA evidence, which was the only evidence they had, supremely was infallible and inescapable. writerfella at once began his own research on DNA information and published articles in the local newspapers to counter the prosecution's 'propaganda'. writerfella read that there only were 8 Native tribes represented in the FBI DNA database at the time and that all of those came from the northeastern US. This immediately was published as an article, that no Oklahoma tribes were represented at all. During the trial, it was established by defense attorneys that the blood samples taken from the accused for DNA profiling were stored in a car trunk for most of one morning and all of that afternoon. writerfella determined from the natural gas utility that the average temperature in Anadarko that day was 87 degrees, creating car interior temperatures that degraded and in fact destroyed the blood for DNA purposes. The article also explained why the DNA photographic charts were all but unreadable when shown in court. Then writerfella discovered a defect that tainted almost every DNA evidence protocol worldwide: one cell from someone accused is pierced under magnification by a needle and the DNA nuclear strands thus are extracted. BUT -- all human cells have layers of 'scrap' DNA coating them, whether from cells adjacent that died and were replaced, or from cells that 'invaded' the body during physical or sexual contact with another human being. The piercing needle must go through those layers to extract DNA and thus ends up being contaminated, possibly skewing the test results. That also became an article and even stated that such contamination could be avoided if one or more of the mitochondrial bodies in a cell were extracted whole and both the needle and the mitochondrite then rinsed clean of 'scrap' DNA. Lo and behold, in 2004, the FBI held a news conference and reported they were switching completely to mitochondrial DNA profiling from that date forward. Thirteen years had passed but writerfella's speculation was vindicated.
The first trial ended in deadlock, the second trial ended in mistrial when a juror fell on a stairway and broke his collarbone, and an almost unprecedented third trial was begun. By such time, writerfella had found a DNA expert witness for the defense and written yet another article that proposed a unique human paradigm. Native Americans alive today all arise from small survivor groups from their tribe's original numbers. Thus, genetic diversity in a given tribal group almost is zero. Natives from that group almost are cookie-cutter similar in their DNA and mixing of the races complicates the picture rather than simplifying it. Such similarity exists in nature when animal species recover from near-extinction; surviving individuals are so genetically close that a single disease or environmental change could wipe them out entirely. Consider that nearly every Native alive around 1925 contracted Tuberculosis, and the principle is crystal clear.
writerfella met with the defense DNA expert and showed him the articles. The man was amazed and then asked if he could quote those articles in his next book. When the expert testified, the first thing he did was to explain DNA and DNA evidence to the jury, for which the jury became immensely grateful as the prosecution had done no such thing. Then he quoted from writerfella's materials and pointed out that the 'absolute' claims of high numbers of probability and exclusivity by the prosecution existed outside the realm of possibility in this case. Native American DNA is too disparate and diasporized to achieve the results claimed by the prosecution.
The jury took 6 hours to deliberate and then to find writerfella's adopted brother not guilty. writerfella still is proud to say that he was just one person who battled and won against the south-central District Attorney's office, the Anadarko Police department, the Caddo County Sheriff's department, the Oklahoma Crime Bureau, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As an added sidelight, in early 1995, writerfella and his family were watching the O. J. Simpson murder trial and could not escape the many similarities to the trials the family had had to endure. Upon hearing commercial spots for the "O.J. Hotline", writerfella was impelled to act. He contacted the hotline, gave the schematic of his brother's trial, gave the names of the defense attorney and the DNA expert, and volunteered his copies of all the official court documents. The materials were shipped and the O.J. Simpson team flew the two trial figures out to Los Angeles and then hired them. One afternoon in August 1995, writerfella was surprised and pleased to hear Johnny Cochran say, "Your Honor, this evidence was mishandled in the same way evidence was mishandled in a case in Oklahoma." And then he cited the State of Oklahoma vs. Anthony Archilta 1989-1992.
That October, almost three years to the very day, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty, just as writerfella's adopted brother so was found in October 1992.
writerfella writes about everything and not just Native matters. And so he shall continue...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

I'm glad you've made a difference, Russ. But do you think OJ deserved to go free just like your adopted brother?

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
In a society where the rule of law ostensibly is supreme, adjudications are said not to hinge on emotions or assumptions of guilt or innocence. The evidence as presented is stated to be the determining factor, always. Thus, writerfella was neither judge nor jury and made no assumptions about O.J.'s guilt or innocence but rather acted from his own acquaintance with DNA evidence as a known faulty quantity. The parallels were too close, too recent, too compelling. Think how writerfella might have felt if he had known what he knew and then did nothing...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

I'm not sure OJ was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But from what I saw of the evidence, he was guilty.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Nowhere in the evidence or in the testimony on behalf of the evidence was there ever a word of explanation or explication of just how or why the forensic anti-clotting agent Heparin was present in the blood droplets found in O.J.'s car or on the fence gate at the rear of the estate. That chemical preservative ordinarily is contained only in vials into which blood is drawn by medical technicians. 'Reasonable doubt' thus was raised exponentially and it never went away...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'